The Smithsonian National Zoological Park Washington DC is a great place to explore, find and learn about diverse and exotic creatures, whether giant giraffes or miniscule leaf-cutter ants. Learning about other species by watching their behavior can offer us new insight into ourselves. Finding out about the survival strategies that different animals have stretches the imagination. Seeing young animals learning to adjust to their new environment and interacting with their mothers can be a life-affirming experience. The animal youngsters at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park are irresistible and entertaining. While visiting DC, discover the baby gorillas, the cubs of pandas and cheetahs, a young elephant from Asia, and other animals recently born at the Zoo.
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park was founded in 1889. Its mission is to study, celebrate, and protect the diversity of animals and their habitats. About 2,400 individuals of 400 different species are in the animal collection. The Zoological Park's principle purpose was not to amuse people, but to save endangered animals native to the United States. The Zoo was birthed during an era when American people were concerned about reaching the end of the frontier, and the emerging power of urban industry in society. The animals at the Zoo reminded visitors of the tragically diminishing American Wilderness.
The Smithsonian National Zoological Park has two installations, one of which is devoted to research. The public zoo is a beautiful 163-acre urban park located in Northwest Washington DC, 20 minutes from the National Mall by subway. While visiting DC, come to the zoo free of charge, and discover life in the world of cheetahs, zebras and even the scimitar-horned oryx. Witness an eagle feeding, and learn about other majestic birds of flight like hawks and falcons. Watch a mother elephant and her calf being bathed. Or, attend a bird house indoor flight exhibit, where you can watch birds forage and catch their food mid-flight, as a keeper and a volunteer narrate.
While visiting the National Zoological Park Washington DC learn about our giant pandas, and pandas in the wild. The National Zoo has been the home to giant pandas for more than 30 years. First Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling in 1972, and, since 2000, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, have symbolized the Zoo's efforts to celebrate, study, and protect endangered species and their habitats. The July 9, 2005, birth of giant panda Tai Shan underscores these efforts.
Food is plentiful at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. When visiting the pandas, you can try the Panda Cafe. When exploring Lion/Tiger Hill, don't miss Mane Restaurant. There is also an Express Grill at Panda Plaza, and near the small mammals you will find a seasonal Popstop. You can also bring your own picnic. Coolers are permitted, but not grills or other cooking devices. There are picnic areas throughout the Zoo, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Zoo sits adjacent to Rock Creek Park and can be entered at 3001 Connecticut Ave., on Harvard St. and on Beach Dr. It is easily accessed from the Metro stop Woodley Park/Zoo. It is open every day from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm between April 15th and October 15th. The rest of the year it is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is free, since the zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution . As the National Zoological Park Washington DC celebrates the 117th anniversary of its establishment in 1889, its mission to study, celebrate, and protect animals and their habitats is as vital as ever, if humankind is to save what remains of the Earth's biological diversity.
Image: Smithsonian National Zoological Park (flickr)